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By Ehab Farouk
CAIRO, April 2 (Reuters) - Egypt moved closer to easing its chronic power shortages on Thursday as the arrival of a floating import terminal marked the start of imports of super-cooled liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The Hoegh Gallant floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) from Norway’s Hoegh LNG arrived off Ain Sukhna on the Gulf of Suez, an official at state gas board EGAS told Reuters.
It is carrying an initial cargo of 160,000 cubic metres of LNG.
Egypt has exported LNG in the past, but the Hoegh Gallant will allow the country to begin imports.
Energy is politically sensitive in Egypt, where dissatisfaction with persistent power cuts has sparked protests that have helped topple two leaders in four years.
Energy consumption is rising and production falling, turning Egypt from an energy exporter to a net importer and forcing the government to seek energy from abroad to head off the country’s worst energy crisis in decades.
The country is more than $3 billion in arrears to foreign energy companies, partly from diverting gas set for export to energy-starved domestic users.
Hoegh signed a five-year contract with Egypt in November 2014 to provide the import terminal and the country has since agreed to a number of LNG import deals.
EGAS has agreed to import 33 LNG cargoes from Trafigura , 9 from Vitol, 7 from Noble, and 6 from Algeria’s Sonatrach, to be delivered in this year and next.
Last month, EGAS signed a deal to import 35 LNG cargoes from Russia’s Gazprom over five years.
Reporting by Ehab Farouk; writing by Shadi Bushra; editing by Michael Georgy and Jason Neely